Roadblocks predominated in the Arab world this week, as protesters struggle to remove authoritarian leaders in Libya, Yemen and Syria, and Egyptians face truths about events under their previous regime and make choices about new relationships with Palestinians and Israelis. Libya's Muammar Qaddafi met with envoys from the African Union as his regime suffered the defections of eight high-level military officers. In Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh refused for the third time to follow through on an internationally negotiated plan that would remove him from power. Syrian protesters have been inflamed once again by the torture of a 13-year-old boy, and reports say Syrian security forces have received assistance from Iran.
President Obama's Europe visit this week highlights the continued importance of NATO, the most successful military alliance in history; the economic relationships that will be on display at the G8 in France; and the broader transatlantic relationship, equally important in today's turbulent environment. The Obama administration has strengthened many of these important relationships while working to improve security on the continent. Long-standing concerns - Afghanistan, Middle East peace, Iran - join the Arab Spring and other emerging issues as key places for meaningful cooperation and burden-sharing with our allies and partners.
Recognizing that the status quo is unsustainable, President Obama sought last week to revive the long-stalled Middle East peace process. He reiterated his case yesterday at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference, saying "[W]e can't afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades to achieve peace. The world is moving too fast." Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to speak to the AIPAC conference today as well as to address a joint session of Congress tomorrow. While it will be a long and difficult process, going forward experts agree that lasting peace is in the interest of both U.S. and Israeli security.
President Obama met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House today. Against the backdrop of tremendous change in the Middle East, President Obama made a bold challenge to both sides to revive the long-stalled Middle East Peace Process. As President Obama noted in his speech yesterday, “Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable… precisely because of our friendship, it is important that we tell the truth: the status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.” American leadership in the Middle East is tightly tied to perceived progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The alternative to a resolution to the conflict is continued violence, which weakens American interests, harms Israel's long-term security and prevents the creation of a Palestinian state. Active American diplomacy, especially in light of recent events, is therefore essential to advancing our national security and protecting that of Israel.
Today President Obama presented a framework that puts the Arab Spring in context both for Americans, who want to know how it affects our security and values - and the Arab world, who seeks confirmation that their moment to build their own more just and prosperous societies has arrived. As the president outlined, supporting real democratic change is in line with both our interests and our values. However, there is no "cookie cutter" approach to dealing with the multiple challenges ahead. Today's laid out a strategy that demands substantive actions supporting real political and economic reform, courageous steps for peace and the ability to work pragmatically with those who are ready to work with us.
Tomorrow, President Obama will speak to the unprecedented changes that are sweeping the Middle East and North Africa. The speech comes amid increased violence and dramatic shifts in regional power structures. Experts are challenging old and new assumptions about how the U.S. should respond. The challenges they highlight-understanding and working with new regional powers; seeing Iran as itself under threat and hardly a clear winner; dealing with Syria as a region-wide challenge; advancing a clear view of the Middle East Peace Process as a U.S. national security interest-must be resolved if the U.S. is to seize opportunities going forward.